Alex Bikes

Ottawa bike politics.

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Why I’m so enraged about parking in a bike lane

There isn’t a centimetre of bike lane in the city that didn’t require volunteer time…

That meant getting a babysitter to go to a consultation, filling out an awful survey on your lunch break or having a frustrating argument with your councillor. Some people take time off work to go to Public Advisory Committees. I know people who do this for their retirement.

Road building for cars is a well-oiled machine; engineers get paid, suburban builders get bonuses and politicians are re-elected. No lobbying is required. This is not a group that benefits from change.

But bike infrastructure is different. This part of our Transportation Master Plan depends on unpaid citizens with no formal training.

Enforcement isn’t working. They’re not patrolling major routes with regularity. If you call it in, the driver will leave and nothing can be done. The main offenders are delivery truck drivers, and those tickets are just an assumed operating expense for the company. Who cares?

The entire rest of the road is optimized for motor vehicles. Can’t we please have this one small strip of land we fought for?

We need to make parking in a bike lane socially unacceptable. So I appeal, again, to go to open houses, have polite discussions with offenders, call bylaw and post photos on social media.

And if you don’t have time, pay a few bucks to your local advocacy group so they can do it on your behalf.

(About the photos… there are hundreds. I’m sorry if I didn’t include yours, and doubly sorry if I didn’t attribute it properly.)

The City cancelled the bike lanes on O’Connor in the Glebe. You need to email them.

Do you think the City should stick to its plan to build bike lanes on O’Connor? Then you need to write the City right now. I believe we can change their course of cancelling the Glebe parts of the O’Connor bike lanes.

Don't want the City changing their mind? Email them.

Don’t want the City changing their mind? Email them.

The plan for bike lanes for all of O’Connor goes back to 2008. This has been reinforced several times over the years, including in the April 9th, 2015 O’Connor Bikeway Plan. Just 11 days later: cancelled for all parts of O’Connor in the Glebe.

Here’s the about-face the City gave on April 20th, in email, out of the blue:

Based on comments from stakeholders and the public as part of the current public consultation program for the O’Connor Street Bikeway study, and in consultation with the Ward Councillor, the recommendations for the Glebe portion of the proposed O’Connor Street Bikeway are being revised.  South of Strathcona Avenue, the recommended treatment will be for shared use lanes, which means that all existing on-street parking and curbside access between Strathcona Avenue and Fifth Avenue will be unchanged; dedicated bike lanes will no longer be recommended in this section and the existing on-street parking will no longer be relocated to other local streets.  The primary reason for this change is in acknowledgement of the low-speed, low-traffic-volume residential nature of this two-way street coupled with the unique need for at least some on-street parking and curbside access.

Parking is usually the biggest blocker of any bike project, and I don’t see how parking can be considered a “unique need”. Moreover, there’s no reduction in parking, it was to be moved: “the on-street parking spaces within the Glebe East Permit Parking Zone would not be reduced”.

Maybe the City has just forgotten the years of support that Citizens for Safe Cycling and many other cyclists have had for this project. They need reminding.

I ask you to email Robert Grimwood, project manager for the Glebe portion of O’Connor bike facilities. His email address is I’ve known Robert for awhile, he likely isn’t the decision maker, but does collect feedback.

Use your own words, but here are some points I’ll be making:

  • bike lanes encourage sustainable transportation and are important to get new cyclists biking
  • people should be able to bike comfortably from Centretown to Lansdowne
  • the City needs to keep its promises and stick to the Ottawa Cycling Plan
  • cyclists are stakeholders too

Citizens for Safe Cycling appreciates being cc’ed on such notes (at You might also consider mailing Councillor David Chernushenko (

Please take a moment and do this by Thursday, April 30th. There’s a good chance this will influence their report to the Transportation Committee on June 3rd.

In bike advocacy, you can only ask cyclists so often to write in favour of a cause. I’m using one of my silver bullets here. Please go make some noise.

I’m big on references:

Another French tour: Nice to Groningen

This is the luggage at the Ottawa airport. That's 30lbs I'll be hauling up the hills...

This is the luggage at the Ottawa airport. That’s 30lbs I’ll be hauling up the hills…

I’m going on another tour, and I was looking for something hillier than the last trips (Texas and Quebec). I have 14 bicycle days to get from Nice, France to Groningen, Netherlands. That distance is technically 1500km, but I’m unlikely to be able to keep up the 150km/day pace I had in Texas.

First I’m starting with an established route called Le Tour des Grandes Alpes. which runs from near Nice (Menton) to near Geneva (Thoulon). Normally it’s run southbound, but I’ll be doing it in reverse. It is 600km with a total climb of 20,000m. includes Bonette (2800m), D’Iseran and various others. These are higher than anything I’ve done before.

The second part is getting from Geneva to Eindhoven. I’m expecting I’ll have to take the train for parts of this. I have no real plans on how to do this. I’ll meet up with my parents there; they’re there to reminisce about where they grew up. After that, to Groningen in the north where my sister is celebrating her 50th birthday.

A lot of this is just easier to arrange now. I know what equipment to bring, what to expect, etc. I’m always worried my bike won’t make it or that I’ll suffer some horrible mechanical problem that can’t be fixed.

I’m really bad at blogging during trips. Maybe this time will be different.


Responses to the myths of winter biking

IMG_2487Friends and co-workers mean well when they tell me that winter biking is dangerous. Random drivers telling me to get off the road are less polite. Here are some responses to their most common concerns.

1. Why would you choose to bike in the winter?

I need to get around. The bus takes too long and I’m cheap. And I can’t drive (and if you want to know why, ask).

2. Winter biking is dangerous.

Winter biking’s safer than other modes of transportation.

Driving’s dangerous. From 2008-2012 in Ottawa drivers killed 11 cyclists, 37 pedestrians and 98 people in cars. Want to make the roads safer? Decrease driving.

Recreational activities? 25% of nonfatal recreational outdoor injuries in emergency rooms. An average of 29 people die every year by snowmobile in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

3. Isn’t it cold?

Biking in the winter is like skiing or skating and warmer than waiting for the bus. Dress properly.

4. Bicycles have no traction.

If you think this it is because you have no experience.

A good cyclist with studded tires is more stable than a 2000lb car without winter tires. I’ve fallen less on bike than I’ve stopped to help stuck motorists.

Parking near the west-end buildings on Laurier – just the facts


There’s a lot of controversy about the Laurier segregated bike lane pilot around parking on the western part of the project. There’s a some loud voices who are concerned about the changes in access to parking and pick-up/drop-off areas. I’m not going to argue with that in this article. I’m just laying out the facts. Go draw your own conclusions, maybe I’ll do that in another article.

Executive summary

Here’s some highlights of what I’ve found:

  • The amount of legal on-street parking has been reduced in this two block area from 74 to 68 spaces, a reduction of 8.1%
  • Generally, on-street parking is further from the doors than it was before
  • Pick-up and drop-offs are all the same (and somewhat better with the Gloucester lane gone), and there are no obstaclesthat didn’t exist before.
  • Temporary parking required for deliveries for 570 and 556 Laurier is now further away on Gloucester, which is unsigned. Deliveries at the other addresses is unchanged.
  • Pick-up and drop-offs can no longer happen on Laurier unless they’re in the designated loading areas.
  • All 828 units on theses blocks has its own private spot.

The following are two summary maps that explain the parking situation before and after. This might make it easier to visualize what’s changed.

Map of parking spots around the west end part of Laurier Ave. before the introduction of the segregated bicycle lanes.

Map of parking spots around the west end part of Laurier Ave. after the introduction of the segregated bicycle lanes.

I’ll explain below a bit about how I collected this data.

1. On-street parking

This parking would be used primarily for guests of the residents. It has different constraints; some are limited by 2 hours, some are intended for overnight parking. There’s also seasonal access.

Here’s how spots were relocated. There’s a total of 6 fewer spots now; the total loss is 8.1%.

Location Before After Notes
Laurier, Bronson to Percy, both sides 13 0 Removed to make room for lanes.
Laurier, Percy to Bay, both sides 33 0 Removed to make room for lanes.
Gloucester, Bronson to Percy 10* 17* It seems these spots could have been added regardless of this project.
Gloucester, Percy to Bay 7* 20* Added by removing the bicycle lane on the north side. Also, the school drop-off zone makes it difficult to count spots.
Nepean, Bronson to Percy 6* 13* It seems these could have been added anyway.
Nepean, West of Percy 0 0 This is just a short dead-end street.
Bay between Laurier and Gloucester 0 3 These additions were not part of the original plan.
Percy, Laurier to Nepean 5 5 These are on the east side.
Ottawa Tech HS lot 0 10 These spots are closer to Slater than Laurier, and they are covered.
Total 74 68

* Both Nepean and Gloucester are hard to count as the spots aren’t always marked nor were there absolute numbers recorded before. So the estimates are based on how many cars we saw parked plus estimated available spots.

**Nepean deserves a special mention. We went onsite on Friday, June 22 and counted 17 cars parked between Bronson and Percy.  There’s a few reasons for this: it could be that some were parked illegally (particularly east of Percy), the space actually installed was larger than actually planned, and that more cars were able to be squeezed into the space available. However, to be conservative, I’ve stuck with the 13 spots planned. See how this isn’t so simple?

Nepean St. looking eastwards to the dead end east of Percy St.

But numbers aren’t everything, location matters also. For instance, the Ottawa Tech Highscool spots are particularly far. I haven’t done the numerical analysis of the distribution of walking distances. I suppose you could create two charts showing before and after scenarios, but I haven’t. But eyeballing it, I draw the following conclusions.

For addresses on Laurier, parking is now further from their front entrances. Many visitors will want to park close to the front entrance of the building. They might need to be buzzed in or don’t know how to access the building from other parts of the block. The ten spots on the Ottawa Tech HS property offset this a little.

For addresses on Laurier, parking at the back entrances is now closer. For 175 Bronson, 570 Laurier and 556 Laurier getting to the back doors on Gloucester might mean walking outdoors. Removing the old bike lane on Gloucester and replacing it with parking spots means 13 more spots right by the back entrance to 500/530 Laurier.

For addresses on Gloucester, there’s seven new spots at the front entrance.


2. Access for pick-up, drop-off and deliveries

Here, I consider two use cases:
  • dropping someone off or picking someone up; you never need to leave your vehicle so you can use a stopping zone
  • making a delivery, which would require parking, being buzzed in, delivering the pizza/bouquet/whatever, then going down and driving away
There’s no address that has no pick-up or drop-off location at the front entrance. For 556 and 570 Laurier, temporary parking for deliveries is significantly further away.
These buildings all have secondary entrances. None of these have facilities so guests can be buzzed in, so the only entrances useful for visitors entering are the front ones which all face Laurier. However, it is conceivable that visitors could use a door closer to their parked car on exiting. That’d require signage, but it might be possible.
Really, the easiest way to understand these is to look at the photos taken. Click on them for a larger version. I consider these to be authoritative sources.
175 Bronson
There’s always been a parkade here. It has several parking spots, presumably those are temporary and could be used for deliveries.

This is the parkade in front of 175 Bronson. It has several temporary parking spots.

The only thing that’s changed is that you can’t use the Laurier stretch as a loading zone, but it probably wasn’t used that way anyway given the distance and elevation difference to the front door.
There’s never been anything on Gloucester here; too much space along the road is taken up by entrance ways.
570 Laurier
This building is awkwardly placed, as it borders only on Gloucester and Laurier and has no parkade.
The pick-up/drop-off area is directly at the front door on Laurier. You couldn’t legally park there before either, since the City of Ottawa bylaw says you can’t park within 3m of a hydrant (viewable in the photo).

This is the entrance directly in front of 570 Laurier. It has a smooth surface going directly from the street to the sidewalk.

If you wanted to do deliveries to this address, you’d have to park at one of the spots out back on Gloucester and walk to the front. I didn’t see any signage that explains how to do that.
556 Laurier
There’s a pick-up/drop-off zone directly in front of the front door here too. Again, you can’t leave your vehicle to buzz up and deliver the bouquet.

This is the drop-off/pick-up area in front of 556 Laurier. The lane has been raised so that there’s no drop off the sidewalk. But there is a drop-off now between the lane and the street (on the left).

The length of Percy is only somewhat useful here. There’s a side entrance and a dumpster that makes it impossible to park. There’s some confusion on whether it is okay to actually stop here, that seems to happen often.
If you wanted to make a delivery, you’d have to park on Gloucester and walk around to the front. Again, there’s no signage to explain that.
500/530 Laurier
There’s a delivery parkade that’s built into the building. Unfortunately, it is under construction this summer (between mid-April and mid-September 2012) which makes on-street loading zones more important. If it were running, there’d be the same facilities as there was before. It isn’t clear how many temporary spots there are (if any).

On the east side on Bay, there’s a small area that could be used as a loading zone. There’s a sign there that says “CAR WASH & MOVING AREA ONLY”. It seems to have a spot or two. I’m not sure if this really qualifies as a loading zone and if anyone could use it for deliveries. Note that it is also a significant distance to the front entrance, but presumably close to a side entrance.

This is the car wash/moving area on Bay for 500/530 Laurier. The car parked on the left doesn’t seem to be being washed. It seems impractical to use that vehicle for moving. The pink pavers probably aren’t really a spot.

There’s also a back entrance on Gloucester that didn’t exist before (as there was a bike lane on the north side of Gloucester). It seems to be used as a temporary entrance while the parkade is being built and is signed.  I don’t have a photo of this location.

3. Onsite, private parking

Each of the buildings has some form of private on-site parking that’s purchased with the units. So if you own a condo, you’re likely to own a spot. They’re not configured to be pooled. So if you own a spot and don’t use it, it ends up being wasted space.

It is also important to consider what private parking is available. This would generally be used by property owners or renters. It is worth noting that the average number of vehicles per household is more than 1.0; it could be that some residents normally use on-street parking for their vehicles.

Building Units Private parking spots
175 Bronson 129 373
570 Laurier 132
556 Laurier 112
530 Laurier 217 477
500 Laurier 238
Total 828 850

It would be interesting to know how many spots per resident there really are, but that’s hard to figure out. The average number of dwellers per unit in Ottawa is 2.4 in Centretown, but I don’t know if that’s for these residences.



In all of this I’m only considering legal parking spots. Anecdotally, people are parking all the time on the northern parts of Percy and Bay, in the street and on the bike lane. And I’m pretty sure you’d find people making deliveries using the stopping-only spots, etc.

You can use these to counter some things that have been brought up. A summary of what’s been said is up at Citizen Cycle here. Clearly not all of it is true.

I genuinely want to make sure that I have the facts straight and I want to hear if I’m not stating them properly. But be sure to bring some sort of evidence and site sources.

(Photos by Alex deVries and Lana Stewart used with permission. Others contributed to this content.)

Updates and comments on feedback (August 31, 2012)

This section was added on August 31, 2012. I went through comments both emailed to me from Janine Hutt (chair of BBRAGFAR)  and in this pages comments section. This is a list of changes I made based on that feedback, plus some comments on what I’m not going to change and why. The document they sent me was about 9 pages; I’m not going to publish it here as it was sent to me directly. But I would if they said it was okay.

Absolute numbers of parking spots

BBRAGFAR had different numbers than me. Their counts differ from mine in the following ways:

  • they didn’t include the Ottawa Tech highschool spots because they said they weren’t yet available and quite far way
  • they disagreed with the numbers on Gloucester and Nepean; I’d said there was an increase of 27 spots, and they said an increase of 18. So we’re off by 9.
  • they didn’t include the new spots on Bay

I chose not to update my numbers above as there wasn’t any actual sourced reason for their numbers. I really need to see some sort of actual reference (some photos, a diagram showing position of spots, maybe a pointer to someone else’s map). I stand by my numbers until someone can provide a trustworthy reference to show how they’re wrong.

So if I calculate it properly, they count a loss from 74 to 46 spots, where as mine are a drop from 74 to 68.

Interpretation of portion of parking loss

I heard back from  BBRAGFAR that they thought my drop of 8% parking availability was in fact 61%. Of course, they’re using their above numbers of 46 current spots.

I’ll use my numbers to explain their method. They’re comparing number of new spots to number of spots lost, essentially only counting the moved spots. With my numbers, 46 spots were removed and 40 were added. Using their method, the loss is then (46-40)/46, so 15%.

They’re not counting the original number of spots, 28. I don’t think their interpretation of the numbers makes any sense. If I’m driving around looking for a spot, I don’t care (or know) if I’m using a spot that’s always been there or one that’s new. Parking contention is only going to come up when all 68 spots are full.

It took me awhile to explain the different interpretations of the numbers, I thought this chart might help:

This chart shows the number of spots before and after the installation of the Laurier bike lane. It also shows two different ways of interpreting the change. The first interpretation shows a loss of 6 of 74 spots (an 8% loss). The approach used by BBRAGFAR doesn’t include the 28 spots that haven’t moved, so a loss of 6 of 46 spots, so 13%. The method of calculation is used against my numbers, not theirs.

If we use the BBRAGFAR numbers (a loss of 46 spots, a gain of 28), then they come up with a 61% loss. But as I said, I don’t think their numbers are right.

Pick-up and Drop-off locations on Laurier

I maintain there’s three spots for the four addresses on Laurier that can be used for legal pick-ups, drop-offs or deliveries. I have photos of each of them on the blog.

The BBRAGFAR response is: “Legal pick-up and drop offs on Laurier are now non-existant between Bronson and Lyon since the SBL except in front of 556 and 570”. The two addresses they say are missing are 500/530 Laurier, which has always had a parkade.

I cannot understand their statement. There’s always been a parkade there that’s been used as for pick-ups and drop-offs. That’s what it was built for. There’s a photo above that shows it. Perhaps they see the lack of access because of the parkade’s construction this summer, but that’s not a result of the bike lane. I think there’s an expectation that the public street could be used for the 4-5 month construction of the condominium property.

Is the city responsible for providing room for pick-up/drop-off space during a private construction project? I don’t think so, but clearly others disagree.

Acceptable distance

One thing that came out is that there’s no definition of an acceptable distance to walk to a parking spot. That might seem obvious, but seems to be part of the problem in describing what should be counted or not.

Other changes

Based on feedback, I made the following smaller changes:

  • emphasized how hard it is to count spots on Gloucester and Nepean
  • explained that the Ottawa Tech spots are far away
  • explained that secondary entrances might not be helpful
  • made it clearer how private parking is allocated.


That’s it folks

I think I’m done with this topic. Unless something drastic happens, I’m unlikely to update this blog entry. I encourage readers to think for themselves based  on information they find, hopefully that’s here and my references are sufficient to make it reliable. If you use this information, I’d appreciate a reference.

Oh, and blogs are free. If you don’t like what’s here, go publish your own. Or just comment below.

The 2012 Alex Bikes all-season Dreamcycle

Here’s my current equipment dilemma: I’m switching from my comfortable summer bike to my somewhat cheaper winter bike (sort of like this, but with a different Marin frame as the first one cracked. Oh, so did the second, so this one has a welded aluminum frame). Like most people out, I’m biking around on a $100 frame with $150 of studded tires. I count on everything rusting out.

Here’s a typical conversation:

Me: “For my winter bike, I don’t want to have to bike on studs all season, as they slow me down 25% on my 23km commute. I want replacement wheel I can just swap out depending on the weather.

Other bike geek:  “Yeah? I have a spare 7-speed wheel you can have.”

Me: “Yeah, but the OD doesn’t match, and the indexing is off by 0.2mm then”

Other bike geek: “Why not just buy a wheel with an 8-speed hub?”

Me: “I can’t find anything online under $120, and it’ll just get salted out anyway.”

Other bike geek: “Plus, the index alignment won’t match so you’ll need new friction shifters, and there’s the brake pads might need realignment so you’ll have no rear brakes. You could get an identical rear wheel…”

 I know maybe one person who would have a similiar conversation about a car. This is not the kind of thing that popularizes cycling.  Here’s an ad of the bike I would sell if I could:

The Alex Bikes 2012 Dreamcycle: a bike for people who are not cyclists. This is not just a rebranded Trek 2012 Soho Deluxe Commuter Bike. Click on the image for a larger version.

Finally, a bike that’ll work year-round, easier to service than a car, and cheaper than driving or transit. No more worries about biking; just grab your helmet and enjoy the segregated lanes that cover our city.

And for everyone wondering about how we’ll bike on snowy paths; more on the White Route in another entry.